If you ask a parent of a newborn what’s the hardest age – babies or teens, I’d bet that they’d say babies. I probably would have myself. I couldn’t imagine anything more life changing than a colicky baby, screaming to be held, nursed, changed…you name it.
If you ask a parent of a toddler what’s the hardest age – toddlers or teens, they’d probably agree it was toddlers. Who wouldn’t agree that parents chasing around tippy, bobble headed two- year-olds and temper-tantrum throwing three year olds would want to change places with parents of sixteen-year-olds any day.
But if you ask me, I’d say parenting at any age has its challenges and absolute head shaking, I can’t-believe-this-is-my-life moments. I’m in one of those moments right now.
I am the parent of a sixteen-year-old licensed driver.
Somehow, I survived the torture of teaching her driving basics. Upon close inspection, I’m sure you could see the fingernail imprints left in the passenger seat’s armrest. Surely, I wore down the floor mats with my impulse-ridden imaginary braking. I guess I did something right, because she passed her behind-the-wheel test on the first try.
Adding her to our auto insurance policy wasn’t even that bad-I suppose parents of teenage boys have it worse in that regard. She took care of all of that herself, bought a new wallet to carefully display her new photo id, and even got a lanyard to responsibly clip her/our car keys onto. She hardly begs to drive the three blocks to her high school, and still rides her bike to the gym.
What do I have to complain about?
Nighttime. It terrifies me. It’s my baby, driving in the dark, alone-or worse-with other teens. It’s the parents who bow out of the pack and allow their teens to break the new law that forbids teens to drive their friends in the first year of their licensing. It’s the “I’ll be home before 11:00 p.m.” speech. Frankly, it’s every time I see her back out of the driveway and scrape the front end of our Prius against the sidewalk. Sheer terror.
It’s not that I don’t trust her-she has never given me reason not to. It’s not that I worry she’s going to get a ticket, drive drunk, or take off on a spontaneous road trip.
No, really what terrifies me about having a teenage driver is the same thing that made me lose sleep when she was a newborn, and collapse from exhaustion when she was three. It’s that overwhelming, mind-numbing, head shaking, I-can’t-believe-this –is-my-life feeling. It’s love. All-consuming, overwhelming, turn-me-into-a-fierce-protector kind of love. And watching her drive away breaks off a little bit of my heart every time.